Author Interview: ‘Shelter Rock’ by MP Miles

About the Book:

South Africa is under attack from all sides when Elanza, a politically connected heiress blinded by disease and looking for love before it is too late, meets a naïve English boy. Ralph, eighteen and innocent, has accidentally stumbled upon Elanza – and South Africa’s biggest secret.

When Ralph disappears into the darkest part of the Continent to walk home overland, a Swazi spy, the only black African agent working for the apartheid era National Intelligence Service, comes into both of their lives. Angel Rots is uniquely qualified for his official mission to find Ralph and a private mission to settle an old score, but in a pursuit from Cape Town to Cairo, Ralph is always one step ahead and Angel starts to ask questions. Why is this kid so important? What has he found? Looking for answers, Angel discovers a secret that challenges his own loyalties – and could change the course of history.

From illegal nightclubs in South Africa to poachers in Zimbabwe and the Batwa pygmies of Burundi, from arrests in Uganda and drugged hit men in Kenya to thieving Sudanese nuns and a final confrontation in the bazaars of Old Cairo, no one would make it home without an angel watching over them. This pulse-pounding thriller will delight fans of espionage fiction as well as keen readers who see the parallels of the nuclear weapons threat in the book and modern day politics.

 

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

 

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I’m from a small town in Dorset. Aged eighteen I escaped and walked alone through Africa from Cape Town to Cairo, the subject of much of my debut novel, Shelter Rock. On my return I studied agriculture, and then farmed in Dorset and Portugal before ending up trading fresh produce from other farmers around the world. Along the way I learnt to fly, teach scuba diving, and sail. For the past ten years I’ve lived in the beautiful British Virgin Islands on a yacht called Pacific Wave.

I have been writing for a long time, mostly articles, reviews, and yacht test reports for sailing magazines. My trip through Africa as a teenager thirty-five years ago has been stewing for that length of time until, four years ago, I was inspired to write it.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

I live on a yacht in the Caribbean and don’t really work for a living, so I have plenty of free time. I’m very lucky. I spend my day doing something with the boat in the morning and then writing all afternoon, every afternoon, usually sitting on the deck in my trunks under a sun awning, looking over blue tropical water.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

Shelter Rock is based on true events. In 1982, age 18; I walked alone from Cape Town to Cairo. It took six months, cost only £200, and I returned home with hepatitis and a fat worm living inside my toe. Everything that happens to the boy Ralph in Shelter Rock, the places he goes and the people he meets, is entirely true. I too helped pygmies burn down a brothel in Burundi, was arrested for spying in Uganda, and robbed by thieving nuns in Sudan.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

I have a complete plan in my head, but without much of the fine detail so that there is flexibility to let characters develop along the way. With Shelter Rock it was obvious that it would be a journey from one end of Africa to the other, and this became the trunk of the tree that other branches could hang from.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

The genre is spy thriller. I guess what drew me to that genre is that as a one-time farmer turned fresh produce trader I had some involvement with intelligence services as I travelled the world buying salads and selling vegetables – excellent ‘living cover’. It is important though to make the distinction between spy masters working for an intelligence agency, and those spying. It helps to think less of Bond, and more of that guy behind the bar in a private members club, or that quiet girl waiting tables in a swanky restaurant. Barmen, waitresses, taxi drivers, receptionists, and travelling salesmen all make excellent spies. In fact, if you think of the person you know least likely to be a spy, he or she would be the best one for the job.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

Protagonist Angel is a black African spy with a Cockney English accent and in my head there was only ever the magnificent Idris Elba, and out of character I would love Daniel Craig to play the evil Afrikaans antagonist Nels. For the mixed up South African blind heiress Elanza, Nicole Kidman would work perfectly. I saw her play a Russian mail-order bride in ‘Birthday Girl’ and she is brilliant with accents. Tom Hardy for agent Zac, obviously, and Colin Firth for his older boss Jumbo Cameron. Ralph needs to be naïve, English, and youthful – someone like Jeremy Irvine, the boy who followed his horse to war in Spielberg’s ‘War Horse’.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

My world is the Caribbean sailing community and at every dock and in every bar cruisers leave books for others to take and enjoy – a swap thing. I get all my books this way, maybe fifty a year.

My interests are farming, flying, and sailing. My favourite authors write about those things. As a Dorset-boy I was brought up with Thomas Hardy. I love his tragic ‘country’ characters struggling with their passions in the South West of England. I love the prolific 1950s author Nevil Shute with aviation and engineering providing the backdrop for great characters that are how I would like to be – straightforward, trusting, honest, fascinated by aeroplanes, engineering, science and design. For sailing, nothing can beat Conrad.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

  1. A recent find at a marina in Trinidad was a technical book on astro-navigation, in French but I reckoned I could then kill two birds with one stone. It is heavy going.
  2. At a yachties bar in French Martinique I picked up an English language collection of O’Brian’s nautical-historical novels. I hadn’t read any before but as ever; it is the characterization that interests me as much as the boaty stuff.
  3. The latest John le Carre, because I’ve read everything else he’s ever written. I’m a fan.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. I’m not familiar with the academic world but he has great characters, it’s clever and very funny. I re-read it constantly and laugh.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

Keep writing until you have faith in it. If you believe it has some worth, others will too.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?

 Website – www.mpmiles.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/MPMilesAuthor

Twitter – @MPMiles_

Instagram – www.instagram.com/iammpmiles

Goodreads – www.goodreads.com/author/show/18848250.M_P_Miles

 

About the Author:

MP Miles is from a small town in Dorset. Aged eighteen he escaped, and walked alone through Africa from Cape Town to Cairo, the subject of much of his novel Shelter Rock. After studying agriculture he farmed sheep and potatoes in England and Portugal before travelling the world buying and selling fresh produce, brilliant ‘living cover’ had he been spying for an Intelligence Service. He is a pilot, a diving instructor, and an award-winning chef. Mark started writing fiction four years ago, having for many years written sailing book reviews and yacht test reports (think Jeremy Clarkson of boats). A lifelong sailor he now lives in the Caribbean on-board a yacht called Pacific Wave.

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